As with many Libertarian Party members, they came from the Republican Party and many would say the Republican Party left them. Gary Johnson is experiencing the same..
The former New Mexico governor isn’t necessarily upset because he isn’t going to get his party’s nomination for president. Trouble is, Johnson doesn’t believe his party even gave him a fighting chance to win.
Shut out of almost all candidate debates, Johnson hasn’t had the chance to make his case to voters in the same way, for example, a Herman Cain or a Michele Bachmann did. Johnson never got the not-Mitt-Romney bounce that is pushing Newt Gingrich to the front.
Such is the rough-and-tumble of national politics — Republican Party officials say that Johnson lacks high enough polling numbers to be included in debates. Of course, it’s hard to poll decently when such organizations as CNN leave your name out of the poll.
And it’s hard to gain notice if you’re not in the debates — for the CNBC debate, Johnson believes he met the criteria, polling at least at 3 percent before Nov. 1 and being registered a Republican and still couldn’t get a call back. Thus, the circle closes and candidates such as Johnson (as well as former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer) are left outside looking in.
Now, Johnson is considering making a run for president on the Libertarian Party ticket. Normally, we might say that such a move smacks of sour grapes. At 58, Johnson could live to run another day; he’s young enough. If he couldn’t garner enough support, that’s politics; Johnson, a fierce competitor, should know when he is whipped. Still, Johnson has a contribution to make.
By staying engaged, whether in his current party or in another, he might find another opportunity to share his message. We disagree with Johnson on many issues — generally, we believe it’s a good idea to have people in charge of government who actually believe in the notion of government and its ability to get things done.
Johnson, on the other hand, appears to have little use for government, and made no bones about his distaste for the institution through his actions as New Mexico governor.
However, Johnson’s consistent views (among them: lower taxes, less government, fewer foreign entanglements and more personal liberty) add depth to the often inane national debate. Particularly, his support for the legalization of marijuana could lead to important — and up to now, neglected — discussions on the nation’s failed war on drugs.
Everything from drug-cartel horrors in Mexico to overcrowded (and expensive) prisons to shoring up the federal budget through taxes on legal pot sales could be on the table — not for approval, but for debate beyond sound bites and talking points.
Primaries should not become pageants for the anointing of a pre-chosen candidate. Primaries should be places where candidates pull out the stops and vigorously debate a variety of issues.
Once the nominee emerges, chances are that bits of his or her platform will have been borrowed in part from a primary opponent’s position. Witness President Barack Obama taking on Hillary Clinton’s mandate for health insurance after the Democratic 2008 primary.
To date in this campaign, voters haven’t been able to hear enough of Gary Johnson’s positions to decide what they think of his views. By running as a Libertarian, perhaps the former governor could gain, if not support, at least a wider airing of his positions.